Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating understanding, patience, & compassion to navigate this school year

by Stacey Ebert / Sep 07, 2020 /
Stacey Ebert's picture

It’s September. Traditionally, we’re talking about student schedules, managing our time, how to embrace kindness in those new and often scary experiences, and approaching that chaotic last quarter of the year with a renewed spirit. Um, it’s 2020–this one is far from traditional. While we’re still talking about schedules, time management, kindness, new experiences, and that last quarter, it’s all sorts of different this time around. 

How are you handling it all?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating understanding, patience, & compassion to navigate this school year

This year that back to school conversation transpires amidst a global pandemic, ongoing protests, an upcoming presidential election cycle, and a kerfuffle at the US Postal Service; it’s not at all the ‘usual’ back to school jitters. This year we’ve added health concerns and distance learning, new social and emotional struggles stemming from quarantines and isolation, angst around the feeling of missing milestones, family struggles around lost wages or juggling remote work, and for many, the chaotic underpinnings of politics, systemic injustice, and concern for the future. Regardless of which bits pertain to you, it’s clear that the mess and madness of 2020 is far from the typical night before the first day of school jitters. 

It takes work to get to the other side of fear, the other side of angst, and the other side of forever feeling feverishly frenetic. 

It takes mindfulness and methodology, connections and community, and believing that there will be another side of it all. 

Our kids are witnessing all of this. Remember when they were younger and looked to their parents to know if after falling, they were really hurt? Remember when they saw destruction, and looked to their mentors to know how to help? And, remember when they watched as elements of racial injustice became personified in their recent lifetime and looked to their elders to know how to respond, how to act, and what to do next? 

What do you want the next generation to know at this time? Either they see the world in utter chaos with constant madness and fear at every turn, or they realize that we’re all in this together, that it takes all of us to change the tides, and that gratitude, forgiveness, activism, kindness, love, and engaging with community will help lift us to the other side 

Which one do we want to show them?

As this school year begins, take a deep breath, show up with a smile, and dig in. It won’t be like it’s been before–it will be different, it’s not supposed to be the same. It might not be complete with school buses or cafeteria lunch tables, but remember, solely because it’s different, doesn’t make it bad; challenging, yes, but who knows, this could be the change we need or the chance to make it better. Of course, we’d all prefer to skip the pandemic and have the education we prefer. Yet this time, this chaotic mess of 2020, can instead be seen through a growth lens. Perhaps this is the time you choose the education and schooling for you and your family. Perhaps this is the time we work on our own personal development, our own pause from reaction to response, and our own empathy to ensure that we exude kindness; we realize that we are all a small part of a much greater picture...and that each of us has equal value. 

Regardless of how we enter the 2020-2021 school year, be it distanced, hybrid, or at that brick and mortar space of old, consider these three words: understanding, patience, and compassion. Regardless of whether we’re showing up on Google Meets or sanitizing our hands before entering a classroom, these skills, practices, and valued lessons cross boundaries, borders, and backgrounds. 

This may not be the experience we wanted, but it’s the one we have. 

If we can teach our children to channel positivity, look for the good, accept the situation at hand, and empower them with tools to move forward, we’ll succeed. The time has passed to share whether or not it’s the choice you’d choose to make–it’s here. The school year is upon us, and we all wish for the most success possible. 

For many of us, this experience is new. Teachers, administrators, staff, community members, faculty, parents, and students are all on unsteady ground–but they’re not alone. There are resources available if only we choose to look. There are advocates available if only we choose to see. And our attitude is our own choice, if only we choose to activate that ability to accept the situation and make our attitude meet this moment. While you’re arming your students with keyboards and laptops, post-its and paper, ensure their emotional toolbox is stocked as well. Amidst the how to make your own lunch, how to do the laundry, and here’s the online tool for your math class, arm your children with understanding, patience, and compassion. If we each choose a bit more of each, perhaps our stressors will ebb, our hearts will lift, and our students will come out of this school year kinder, more compassionate, and able to see how they are part of a greater community. 

When this pandemic ends–and it will end–what will you remember? Perhaps some of the lessons learned allow you to choose a new way of education for your family. Perhaps you’ll feel enriched by the camaraderie of a greater community. Perhaps, when the little ones tell the stories of this time to their children, they’ll remember it as a time where we all tried our best, extended a hand to help someone else, and employed extra understanding, patience, and compassion to the wider world. 

If that’s what they take from the 2020-2021 school year, I’d consider that a home run.

Three thoughts to focus and navigate the waters of this different school year

Understanding

The best analogy I heard of this situation came from a city health officer sharing that this time is like ‘building the airplane while flying it’. Those words, for me, create the clearest description and relevance to this year. We’re literally learning on the fly, shifting gears at a moment’s notice, and doing the best we can with what we have. 

We could all benefit from extra kindness. 

We have no idea what battles others are fighting. And while we’re in that same storm, all of our boats, skills, access, and tools are different. We’re all figuring it out as we go–recognize, appreciate, and channel that gratitude.

Patience

I never thought I was born with the patience gene–it’s one I’ve had to practice, cultivate, and let’s just say I’m a work in progress (in fact I think, most of us are). Non-tech savvy humans are learning all things digital. Energetic youth are doing their best to sit still in front of screens. And, amidst a global pandemic and heaps of tumult, parents, families, and educators are juggling all things everything. 

Patience is vital. 

It’s not easy managing it all, and keeping a smile on your face. With so much behind the scenes, behind the curtains, and behind those steeled faces, a little bit of patience goes a very long way. Whether you’re in that long line, unable to enter the Google Meet on time, or are running late to that Zoom meeting that only became a ‘video’ two minutes ago, activate that patience gene. It’s there waiting to engage and help you find that pause you need. 

Compassion

That blend of kindness, empathy, and action–compassion ignites the souls of the human who emits it and the ones on the receiving end. Let’s teach that to our children. In the mess of it all, it’s true that a small ounce of compassion makes a much larger dent than you think. People want to be seen. People want to be heard. 

People want to know that someone is there to listen, to hear them, to feel even a tiny bit of what they’re feeling, and to perhaps, if only a little, soothe the hurt. 

Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the ‘sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it’. If we can all practice a bit of radical compassion and ignite our inner desire to heal, act, connect, be our authentic selves, and empathize with our wider world, perhaps we might all feel a bit more lifted, a bit more at ease, and a bit more relaxed; we’ll know that truly there are those we know and those we never will who actually and metaphorically have our backs.

Pin for later: 
Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating understanding, patience, & compassion to navigate this school year

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.